BY SIMON YAFFE
FOR Jesse Malin, New York City is definitely a state of mind . . . and a powerful one at that.
His new album New York Before the War (One Little Indian Records) - his first record for five years - reflects his thoughts on his native city.
The seeds for the album, which will be released on Tuesday, were planted in December, 2013, when, arriving home from tour, Jesse looked out of his Big Apple apartment window to see words 'The War' painted on the side of an old building.
He said: "I saw the words and immediately wrote them down in my notebook.
"I tried to carve out a place where I could once again exist and sat down and wrote the rest of this record.
"The album is about survival in a disposable age - things blast by in a second.
"It is about making things last, feeling comfortable in your own skin and being an individual.
"Music is my liberation - even though it is a dark world at times, music is a celebration of life."
Sessions for the album began in rural Virginia, before moving to New York.
Performers include guitarist Derek Cruz, bassist Catherine Popper (who has worked with Jack White and Ryan Adams), drummer Randy Schrager (Scissor Sisters) and Paul Garisto (Psychedelic Furs).
"The album is not just a shuffle of song - there is a cinematic thread, a story," added Jesse, who describes his music as "melodic, punky-folk, rock and roll".
Raised in the NYC borough of Queens with sister Juliette, his parents, Enid and Paul, split up when he was young.
"New York had a really good energy when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s," Jesse recalled.
"There were so many creative artists on the Lower East Side, where my grandparents and other Jewish immigrants had walked many years earlier."
Surreally, Jesse began his music career when he was just 12, as the frontman of hardcore punk band Heart Attack.
The group released five albums over a four-year period, from 1980 to 1984.
Jesse, whose influences include early Elton John, Sam Cooke, The Clash and Neil Young, explained: "The teachers were not cool with me taking time off for the band, so I switched schools.
"It was really inspiring - me and the guys learned a lot.
"Back then, there was no internet and mobile phones, so it was all about a DIY approach to the music."
Heart Attack performed their final gig at Hilly Kristal's iconic NYC music club CBGB in July, 1984.
Jesse went on to form the glam-punk band D Generation, which included former Heart Attack guitarist Danny Sage, and they released three albums.
Jesse said: "We toured with The Ramones, Kiss and Green Day, which was pretty inspiring.
"Being with those guys, we learned how to go about things properly.
"Joey Ramone had a heart of gold. Kiss were good guys, too, especially Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley), who were also Jewish boys from Queens."
Wanting a new direction, D Generation split in 1999 and Jesse spent the next two years working on new music.
Former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams, who was also a friend of Jesse, produced his debut album, The Fine Art of Self Destruction (2002).
His second album, The Heat, was released in 2004 and he also collaborated with Adams and Johnny T to form the band The Finger, releasing two EPS.
Jesse's 2007 album, Glitter in the Gutter, featured a duet with rock legend Bruce Springsteen on Broken Radio.
The song was about Jesse's mother, who had died of cancer.
Jesse said: "Bruce is the real deal. He has shown so much passion and professionalism."
Three more albums, On Your Sleeve, Mercury Retrograde and Love It to Life, followed.
Jesse has toured extensively, but has only encountered antisemitism once - in Holland.
He said: "It happened in a hotel over there. A racist clerk said some nasty stuff to my manager.
"I believe in all races and religions and don't believe one is better than the other.
"Lenny Bruce helped me understand the humour and culture of Judaism. I like the fact you can question certain things in Judaism."
Jesse's UK tour dates include Manchester's Night & Day on May 14, King Tuts in Glasgow on May 17 and Birmingham's 02 Academy 2 on May 19.